Zones vary by species.
Full SunFull Regular WaterModerate
  • Description:

    Among the showiest flowering plants. Plants typically bear funnel-shaped blossoms, often with prominent stamens. The many species offer a wide range of flower colors.

    Hibiscus brackenridgei

    Shrub or tree. Native to Hawaii, and the official state flower there. Plant growsto 8–15 ft. tall and about half as wide, with a profusion of large, pure yellow flowers borne in spring and early summer. Somewhat short-lived (4 to 6 years in the wild).

    Hibiscus moscheutos Rose Mallow
    Hibiscus moscheutos Rose Mallow
    Hibiscus moscheutos

    Native to eastern U.S. This species produces the largest flowers of all hibiscus, some reaching 1 ft. across, on an upright, shrubby plant 6 to 8 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. Bloom starts in late spring or early summer and continues until frost, with most flowers in the red, pink, rose, and white range, many with a red eye. Oval, toothed leaves are deep green above, whitish beneath. Plants die to the ground in winter, even in mild climates. For most spectacular bloom, feed at 6- to 8-week intervals during growing season. Protect from wind. Seed-grown strains often flower the first year if sown indoors and planted outdoors early.

    Hibiscus mutabilis

    From China. In warmest climates, shrubby or treelike to 15 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide. Behaves more like perennial in colder part of range, growing flowering branches from woody base or short trunk. Broad, oval leaves with three to five lobes. Summer flowers are 4–6 in. wide, opening white or pink and changing to deep red by evening.

    Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
    Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
    Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

    Probably from tropical Asia; tropical hibiscus has been in cultivation for centuries, and is among the most flamboyant flowering shrubs. It reaches 30 ft. tall and 15 to 20 ft. wide in Hawaii, but more typical size on mainland is 8 to 15 ft. tall, 5 to 8 ft. wide. Glossy leaves vary somewhat in size and texture depending on variety. Growth habit may be dense and dwarfish or loose and open. Summer flowers are single or double, 4 to 8 in. wide. Colors range from white through pink to red, from yellow and apricot to orange. Individual flowers last only a day, but the plant blooms continuously.

    Provide overhead protection where winter lows frequently drop below 30°F/-1°C. Where temperatures go much lower, grow in containers and shelter indoors over winter; or treat as annual, setting out fresh plants each spring. Hibiscus also makes a good houseplant.

    This shrub requires excellent drainage; if necessary, improve soil for best drainage or set plants in raised beds or containers. Can be used as screen, espalier, or specimen. To develop good branch structure, prune poorly shaped young plants when you set them out in spring. To keep a mature plant growing vigorously, prune out about a third of old wood in early spring. Pinching out tips of stems in spring and summer increases flower production.All varieties susceptible to aphids. There are thousands of selections.

    Hibiscus syriacus

    From eastern Asia. To 10–12 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide. Upright and compact when young, spreading and open with age. Easily trained to a single trunk with a treelike top or as an espalier. Sometimes kept trimmed as a hedge. Leaves to 4 in. long, often three lobed, coarsely toothed. Leafs out later in spring than most other deciduous shrubs; foliage drops in fall without coloring.

    Blooms from mid- or late summer until frost, resembling a bush covered with hollyhocks. Blossoms are single, semidouble, or double, 1 1/2–3 in. across; some have a conspicuously contrasting red to purple throat. Single flowers are slightly more effective, opening somewhat wider, but they tend to produce many unattractive capsule-type fruits—which in turn produce many unwanted seedlings.

    Easy to grow. Prefers heat, tolerates some drought. Prune to shape; for bigger flowers, cut back previous season’s growth in winter, cutting down to two buds. Where winter temperatures drop to –10°F/–23°C or lower, protect young plants with a winter mulch for first few years.

    Hibiscus waimeae

    Evergreen shrub or tree native to Kauai. To 18–25 ft. tall and about half as wide. Blooms much of the year. Each fragrant, 5–8-in. flower lasts just one day; blossoms open white in the morning, turn light pinkish by afternoon. Rounded, downy light green leaves to 7 in. long. Use singly as a specimen or mass as a screen. Protect from wind.


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